Inspirational Profile: Elaine Morgan

Elaine Morgan, OBE, received is a Welsh writer and author of several books on evolutionary anthropology, including The Descent of Woman (1972), and The Descent of the Child (1995).  Her writing promotes the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, as well as addresses issues raised by what she calls an androcentric view of human evolution.  She writes in The Descent of Woman, “I believe the deeply rooted semantic confusion between ‘man’ as a male and ‘man’ as a species has been fed back into and vitiated a great deal of the speculation that goes on about the origins, development, and nature of the human race”.   She relates androcentric thinking to pre-Copernican geocentric thinking, and in writing her first novel strove to increase our diversity of thought.  She remarks how when first learning about human evolution, she longed to find a volume that would begin “When the first ancestor of the human race descended from the trees, she had not yet developed the mighty brain that was to distinguish her so sharply from all the other species”.

Materials for this discussion are limited.  You can find a link to a TED talk from Elaine Morgan on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis below.  It may be of interest to check out one of her books at the library.  A 2009 release of TDOW is available for purchase as well, and I have a copy on my Kindle if you would like to take a look. In terms of discussion, I thought it might be of interest to discuss reclaiming our evolutionary importance, as well as how lack and/or presence of diversity in science can affect those not in the scientific community.  As a person who majored in English, Elaine Morgan has demonstrated a very strong interest in how the scientists view and treat women and femininity.

See you Tuesday!

Mary Zeller

The Power of Identifying the Intangible

As modern day supporters of women’s rights, we admire those who came before us, who overcame great obstacles to blaze the trail toward gender equality.  And though our goal remains the same, we must recognize that the challenges women face have certainly evolved over time.  In the past, blatant sexual harassment and discrimination were commonly experienced, whereas today, inequities are most common in much subtler forms.

At our next meeting, on Tuesday, September 4th at 5pm in the Undergraduate Library Room 211, we will discuss some features of women’s issues that can be difficult to quantify.  One such phenomenon is stereotype threat, which is the experience of anxiety or concern in a situation where a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about their social group.  The recommended reading for this meeting is a very interesting article recently on NPR on “how stereotypes can drive women to quit science”.  Also, related to this theme are microaggresions, which are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.  Recently this term has also been applied towards gender and sexual orientation.   The Wikipedia pages for both stereotype threat and microaggresion are very helpful so referring to those links is encouraged.  Our aim will be to recognize and articulate these situations and talk about ways to overcome these obstacles.

~ Tien